Page 78 of 79
To render the plan of the Cabinet Library as perfect and comprehensive as possible, the design embraces useful and instructive compends of Natural Science, more especially in those branches of it which serve to illustrate the progress of general knowledge. With this intention the Proprietors have introduced into their Work what may be termed a new and important feature, by annexing to the description of each country a popular survey of its Natural History. This department has been uniformly intrusted to authors of undisputed professional attainments, amongst whom are numbered some of the most distinguished men of science in the present day. Instead of discussing the subject in a merely technical style, they have given to it a form which renders it at once intelligible and attractive to the general reader. By this means a novel interest and a more inviting aspect have been given to an important branch of knowledge, which has not hitherto been treated in combination with Civil History. In thus endeavouring to render Natural History not merely descriptive of the geological structure or the animal and vegetable productions of a country, but also illustrative of the character, habits, and resources of its inhabitants, the Cabinet Library has done what no similar publication has hitherto attempted.
The lives of distinguished men are often intimately associated with the political events, as well as the scientific discoveries, of their times. National history draws its principal materials, and frequently borrows the only elucidation of its most important incidents, from the memoirs of individuals. Of the pleasure and advantage to be derived from the relation of travels, voyages, and adventures, or of the aid which these afford in the study of maritime discovery, it is unnecessary here to speak. There is scarcely a region of the globe, or a page in history or geography, to which these sources of intelligence have not added valuable contributions.
In the department of Biography several specimens have already been given, and others are in preparation. The Lives and Discoveries of the three celebrated English Navigators, Drake, Cavendish, and Dampier, are, as already mentioned, comprised in the fifth volume; in which is embodied much curious information relative to the romantic spirit of maritime enterprise by which their times were distinguished, and a picturesque Narrative is given of the daring adventures of the Buccaneers. The Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, in the eleventh volume, belongs to the same class with the preceding; for, while it includes a view of the most important transactions in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., interspersed with Sketches of contemporary public characters, it also details his nautical achievements, and unravels certain obscurities in his history, both as a statesman and a navigator, that have not hitherto been explained or understood. The Travels and Researches of Baron Humboldt, one of the most eminent naturalists of the present day, fall likewise under this head; and, accordingly, the tenth volume has been devoted to an analysis of the journeys and scientific labours of that illustrious philosopher, who has perhaps done more than any living author to extend the boundaries of physical knowledge. In preparing this work, application was made to M. de Humboldt himself, who kindly pointed out sources of information to the Editor. In addition to these works will follow a Series of "Lives of celebrated Naturalists" in all the different branches of the science. The first volume of the Lives of Eminent Zoologists, being the sixteenth of the Library, is now published, extending from the times of Aristotle to those of Linnæus inclusive, and containing Introductory Remarks on the study of Natural History and the progress of Zoology. The second volume, already in preparation, will be devoted to the most distinguished writers in the same department, from Pallas, Brisson, and Buffon, down to Cuvier,—and will conclude with General Reflections on the present state of the science. It is intended to offer to the public similar Memoirs of the principal Cultivators of Botany, Mineralogy, and Geology; so that the Series, while forming a useful introduction to the study of those branches of knowledge, will also present a succession of biographical narratives, which, independently of their scientific details, cannot fail to prove extremely interesting to all classes of readers.
Such is a general outline of the plan on which the Edinburgh Cabinet Library will continue to be conducted. To point out its peculiar advantages, or to exhibit more at length the harmony and regularity of the scheme, and how the main subdivisions mutually coalesce with and illustrate each other, would be superfluous. After the delineation of the several parts, just given, and the progress already made, no additional evidence can be requisite, to satisfy the public that the Work advances no claim for which it does not offer a sufficient guarantee, and that it is fitted to become, what it was originally designed to be, a complete and connected Library of Historical, Geographical, Statistical, Natural, and Biographical Knowledge.
The typography of the Edinburgh Cabinet Library has been generally acknowledged to be equally correct and beautiful; and the binding is executed in a style which unites elegance with durability. Each volume is sold for five shillings; and although the quantity of letterpress has in every instance considerably exceeded the original calculation, the price has not on that account been in any degree increased. Maps, accurately constructed, are prefixed to the several works, not only illustrative of the kingdom or region to which they refer, but from time to time carefully corrected, so as to include the latest discoveries. Portraits and numerous other Engravings, executed by able artists, have been introduced, with the view of illustrating the text and conveying characteristic ideas of the several countries, rather than of merely producing a picturesque effect.
Having said so much on the plan, it only remains to subjoin a list of the principal writers who have contributed the volumes already before the public; by which it will be seen that the Proprietors have redeemed their pledge given at the outset, that the Series should be the production of authors of eminence, who had acquired celebrity by former labours in their respective departments:—
THE LATE SIR JOHN LESLIE,
Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, and
Member of the Royal Institute of France.
ROBERT JAMESON, F.R.S.E. & L., F.L.S., M.W.S.,
Regius Professor of Natural History, Lecturer on Mineralogy, &c.
in the University of Edinburgh.
WILLIAM WALLACE, A.M., F.R.S.E.,
Professor of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh.
REV. MICHAEL RUSSELL, LL.D.
HUGH MURRAY, F.R.S.E.
P. F. TYTLER, F.R.S. & F.S.A.
JAMES BAILLIE FRASER.
JAMES WILSON, F.R.S.E., &c.
R. K. GREVILLE, LL.D.
W. MACGILLIVRAY, F.R.S.E., &c.
W. AINSLIE, M.D., M.R.A.S.
CAPTAIN CLARENCE DALRYMPLE,
Master Attendant at Madras.